We were on our knees, huddled in a little circle in the middle of the sitting room. I had managed to position myself so that Mother was between me and the two Americans. They looked strange in their black suits. They smelled strange. Their accents were even stranger.
Then they began to chant religious incantations that to my seven-year-old mind were unintelligible. After we had all muttered “Amen”, one of them invited Father to say a prayer. He mumbled something about, “Thanks to Gard … won’ful woife … an’ fam’ly.” Father never did speak well without his false teeth in.
“Amen”, we all repeated.
My brother was next. He was five years older than me and treated the whole performance as a bit of a lark.
Then it was my turn. A high-pitched squeak came from the back of my throat and I crumpled into a fit of uncontrollable weeping.
The Americans came every week for about a month, and each time I cried all the way through the whole sordid ritual. After that Father became dimly aware of the damage they were doing, so he got rid of them and wouldn’t allow them back in the house.
Mother took it rather badly. She would shut herself away in her bedroom for hours on end with the door closed. A couple of times she tried to leave home, but we managed to prevent her. I even restrained her myself once, despite being only seven. After that she never tried to leave home again. Quite the opposite, in fact. For the next five years she barely ever left the house at all.
But that was just the beginning.